Thursday, June 26, 2014

 An enigma, wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in a tortilla... yum.

     Hello Shadow fans and welcome to another great installment of the Shadow Knows. Sorry this one is coming a lot later in the day. Life always likes to throw us the occasional speed bump and today I hit about a dozen. Now what does the Shadow know today? Well if you are changing a fan belt you should always turn off the engine first. I know you say. That sounds crazy you say. Why would you need to do that you say? Well I am here to say that if you don't you will never get that darn belt on. No matter what you do you can't get those belt pulleys to stop turning. They are like machines or something. I know it is crazy, but then again so is life. So now onto and How I Geek with Greg and the gang. The topic of discussion will be our week in TV so to speak. We are to pick our prime time line up and discuss what our ideal TV prime time week would look like (past or present TV shows). To be honest and no offense to Greg but I am not looking forward to this one. I think we should just talk about shows we'd like to see make a comeback. I think that a lineup show with five people with burn up too much time and make the show a lot to lengthy. I will be the first to admit I could be wrong. Greg still continues to put together great shows so I have faith in the lad. So if you like TV then come check it out. We always have fun either way. So be there of be square daddy-o. The poodle skirts are optional.

     So now Shadow fans on to the topic at hand. What is it you ask that we are to discuss? Well I want to talk about the mystery. Since I was a young puppy I loved to watch mysteries with my Grandfather and old westerns, but I already discussed those. From the serious, to the comedic, to famous books turned movie the mystery has been around since the birth of cinema. I love how they have integrated the mystery into TV as well with crime dramas like CSI and NCIS. I think what I like most about them is that they are each a big puzzle that needs to be put together. The problem is that I have seen so many I am rarely surprised anymore. Still they are a lot of fun to watch and I remain faithful to them because every once in awhile they will surprise me and go in a direction I did not expect. I love that feeling of being surprised and it is awesome when I can find a movie that can do it to me. Like M. Night Shyamalan's the Sixth Sense I did not figure it out until the end. When I look back on the movie now the clues were there, but you were so distracted with what was going on you miss them. In truth it is the only good movie old M. Night has ever put out, but hey we can't win em all. So what is to follow is a few of my personal favs. I hope some of you enjoy them as much as I have over the years.

     First up is that awesome Chinese, American Charlie Chan. Mr. Chan was brought to life by writer Earl Derr Biggers in 1919. Biggers created Chan with the intention to stem the "yellow peril" rampant during the era. This concept of yellow peril was the way that westerners viewed the Asians coming to our country and fearing they would ruin our economy and steal our jobs. This is very similar to how Mexicans are viewed today. I suppose we westerners always have to have someone to demonize... blah! Any who, back to the show. During this age of cinema Asians were depicted as villains and Biggers wanted to take the character in a completely different direction. He made him wise, not brash, and heavy. You know kind of like if Confucius was Santa Claus. Chan is Chinese by birth, but immigrated to America and became a citizen joining the Honolulu police department. He is considered the worlds leading authority on solving crime and is often tapped by other nations for his help. Chan is a family man and has many children as depicted in the many movies made. His children all want to be crime-fighters and do their best to prove themselves to their dad by throwing themselves into his cases. This of course causes all kinds of amusing situations. On the big screen Charlie Chan was played by a few different actors but the two most notable were Warner Oland and Sidney Toler. Toler took over the role from Oland when Oland died in 1938. Both actors brought their own flair and style to the role and neither were Chinese (Oland being Swedish and Toler being American). All in all I love the way these movie blend humor with the thrill of the mystery. They are still a fun watch for me and when a marathon runs on TMC I am there with popcorn and a smile. You can still find these on Netflix. So if you have never seen Charlie Chan go quickly youngling and check him out before the new movie finally comes out and spoils your view. Yes that is right for some time now Lucy Liu has been working on bringing out a new Chan movie and breath some new life and the old boy. I just hope it is not a major let down.

     Next up is the Thin man series. This 6 movie series is based on The Thin Man novel by Dashiell Hammett published in 1934. Hammett is also famous for writing the Maltese Falcon of Humphrey Bogart fame and another great mystery story. This series of movies star William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles. Nick is a retired detective who married a very rich and lovely woman, who happens to be a bit of a thrill seeker. When a friend of Nicks goes missing and his friends love interest is found dead Nick is asked to take the case by his friends daughter. The police believe that his friend murdered his secretary and fled from justice. Nick discovers that in fact it was a double murder over money and his friend was dead as well. Nick is often thought to be the Thin Man, but in reality the Thin Man is the man he is trying to find in the first movie. This is another series that throws some comic twists in with the mystery and drama. I love this series and how well Loy and Powell worked together. This is one of those series of movies that if you have not seen them you are truly missing out. They are fun and the stories are well put together for the time. I have heard nothing of any reboots for these movies in the future, but I would be the first one in line if they do. I just hope whoever does them treats them with the respect they deserve and does not dish out warm donkey poo that we see in some reboots.

     Next up on the block is the infamous Sherlock Holmes. Holmes was created by the brilliant Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887 within the pages of the Strand magazine publication. Doyle also wrote the infamous story the Lost World which has had its own movies and TV series adapted from it. Sherlock Holmes is a genius detective followed closely by his friend and companion Dr. Watson. The pair solve many mysteries together over the course of many years each tale woven by Doyle is like a fine orchestration and are a wonder to read. Moving from novels to the screens (large and small) my three favorite Holmes actors thus far have been Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, and Robert Downey Jr. Downey not being British still did a fine job in my humble opinion. Well he did as good a job as an American actor playing a Brit can. For a long time the only Sherlock Holmes I liked was Basil Rathbones portrayal of the infamous detective. Though they were redone stories told at that time in a more modern way. They were still wonderfully done and entertaining as I see it. Basil did radio dramas of the original stories that I found in later years and enjoyed very much to listen to. It was not until the mid 80's to the mid 90's that we get Jeremy Brett's portrayal of the famous detective and I was blown away. Now when I imagine Holmes it is the face and voice of Brett who enters my mind. When he died in 1995 it was truly a sad day. Now there have been other shows featuring Holmes and most I have not seen. In 2012 CBS aired Elementary starring Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes and Lucy Liu as Watson. It is a very modern take on the old tales and I love it. This show is well done and fall into the category of a straight up homage to Doyle and his genius. I deduce you must watch this show and enjoy it in all it's glory and if you don't like it well I blame aliens. Their evil brain washing is everywhere. So you beware... beware.

Well my fine shadowy friends that is all the time we have this week for the Shadow Knows. Tune in next week where you will hear M. Night say "would you like an apple pie with that" and then soon discover that the pie is not apple but rather cherry... What a twist!!! So Shadow fans do you enjoy a good mystery like me? What are you personal favs? Are mysteries even relevant anymore? Of course they are, but I have to ask. Did you hear that? I think them brain washing aliens are back. I hope they did it right this time. I told them no starch! Starchy brains make for itchy brains and nobody likes an itchy brain. So till next time folks I will see you from the shadows.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Look all and you shall hear the ballad of unsung cartoons of old

     Hello Shadow fans and welcome to the next installment of the Shadow knows woooooooo. What pray tell does the Shadow know this day true believers? Well I know you should never play with the wrong end of a chainsaw. Believe it or not there are those who must be told this is a thing you shouldn't do. I have a hard time believing some hard working lumberjack who has been cutting wood all day would say, "Boy I gotta tell you that was a hard day of work holding this end of the chainsaw. I know how about I hold the long end for awhile cuz it looks easier, hey where did all my fingers go!" Yes I can't tell you the number of times that I, like a moth to a flame have just wanted to grab that wrong end only to be pulled away... blah. What a truly marvelous world we do live in that gives us these strange little nuggets of joy in our daily lives. Any who, Sunday we have another podcast at with Greg and the boys (and lady shout out to Amy). This week on How I Geek, John gets his deepest desire as we get to talk Conan the Barbarian. So it will be happy times for him he he, ha ha, ho ho and off to the funny farm we go. So why don't you come and join us? We have cookies here at the funny farm, only we don't share boooowahahaha.

     So now onto the topic at last... hoooray! The topic of discussion today kiddies is cartoons that were cool, but yet still getting no love today. Over the last 40 years of my life (I know he is sooooo old) I have seen many cartoons come and go and then come again (and not always in a good way hehe). From Transformers to GI Joe and from Thundercats to Voltron. There have been many, many, redos and reboots in the cartoon world. I mean just how many Spider-Man and Batman cartoons have there been in the last ten years, a few I might say (wait was that me or the voices, I often get them confused... oh well). But what about shows like Battle of the Planets from the 70's? This was a show that lasted many seasons had great potential and yet we haven't even given an attempt to revive it. While He-Man was getting his return to the small screen, Dungeons and Dragons the animated series was getting no attention at all. This to me seems a travesty and a waste considering the quality of cartoon programming today. I mean when you have mind numbing shows like Chowder and Uncle Grandpa how is it that good quality shows from days gone by don't even get a second look. Of course super hero shows like Spider-Man and Batman have staying power due to their saturation in the comic book world, but come on how can you ignore stuff that has such great potential like Swat Kats. Well any who to follow are a few of my personal favs that I think should get some new life breathed into their dried out, mummified lungs.

     The first show I wish to mention and that belongs at the top of my list is M.A.S.K. the animated series. This is not to be confused with the 90's cartoon series titled the Mask of Jim Carrey fame (now that would be just really silly and we can't have that). M.A.S.K. stands for mobile armored strike kommand (now you can't really spell mask with a c and it make sense can you, again that would be just silly). The series was created in 1985 by DIC and Kenner and was created to compete with Sunbow's G.I. Joe and Transformers. It is about this super spy organization run by millionaire Matt Tracker. Trackers one and only mission is to stop the terrorist group Venom, run by Miles Mayhem (cool villain name am I right). Both the teams wear masks that give them each special powers and abilities and they drive vehicles that transform into other things like boats, subs, and jets. Mayhem's vehicle never made any sense to me as it turns from helicopter to a jet. Why not have a car turn to jet or helicopter and not two flying vehicles. I guess he really doesn't like driving. Alas I digress. This show ran for 75 episodes and 2 seasons, but really if you are going to watch stop after season one. Season 2 ends very early and rightfully so. The show really takes a turn for the worst after the first season. They turn it into a show all about racing and spy stuff sprinkled in. It is really not well thought out or done. So if there is a reboot in the future they can really just leave out the last season and thank you for your support. All-in-all this is a great show. I think it has good potential that could be modernized and made into something even better. I could even envision a live action series come out of this premise, but alas I see nothing in the foreseeable future that says this show will get the new life it deserves.  

     Next up to the podium is Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors. This is another little creation by DIC, but this time partnered up with the Mattel Corporation. This little number was also developed for TV by that little known guy J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5 fame. First airing in 1985 this show is about a scientist who creates the answer to the universes food shortage in the way of a special plant. Alas as often happens, a freak accident radiates the plant and mutates it into a maniacal being bent on cosmic conquest. I tell you this happens to me at least once a week in my garden. That is why I gave up on keeping a garden altogether. It is truly safer for the universe that way. So now on with the story. The scientist has a special root that can stop the menace, but his son has the other half of this root and both halves are required to save the universe. The series takes off with his son Jayce trying to meet up with his father with his heroic group called the Lightening League and save the universe with a root. It ran for 65 episodes and though the premise sounds weird it is really fun to watch (says the man with voices in his head... hey stop that). This show could use a little tweaking, but then again it is close to 30 years old and would need it anyway. There are lots of great elements here that could really make for a great animated series reboot and would love to see it happen. The villains/plant vehicles and characters are well put together and the Lightening League persona's are well developed. The heroes are individualized and cleverly written. The fact of the matter remains that the people in charge don't see the potential that is there. I am beginning to think that they have trained monkeys running the animation studios throwing poo at the wall to see what sticks.

     Next up on board for all you post apocalyptic, fantasy fans out there is Hanna Barbera's Thundarr the Barbarian. This show of awesomeness ran for two short season from 1980-1982. It takes place in the far flung future (not far flung poo) after the Earth is torn asunder violently when a run-away planet hurtles between the Earth and the Moon. In this future there is mutations, super science and sorcery has made a return. Out of this chaos comes Thundarr the barbarian, Princess Ariel the sorceress, and Ookla the Mok (reminiscent of Chewbaka of Star Wars fame). They step up and help the little guy in adventure after adventure. I love the way that Thundarr tries to interpret old Earth junk and how Ariel (a keeper of old Earth knowledge) has to explain to him what it really is. It reminds me of the old TSR RPG Gamma World which has a similar premise. Ookla is great to watch with his smash everything and ask questions later attitude. Thundarr uses his sun sword to thwart evil. This device is part science and part magic and can only be wielded by Thundarr (an ID lock of some kind). This weapon hearkens to the lightsaber created for Star Wars, but with a little more jazz like shooting energy blasts. This is a really fun series to watch and is another one I could see a live action movie spin-off from it. Alas if only someone could see the potential that I see in it. I dunno maybe I could bribe the execs with bananas or something.

     My next to last mention of the evening is the Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light. This great show of awesomeness was created by Sunbow and Hasbro in 1987. This show never really had a chance from the gate lasting only 13 episodes. It did OK on TV but, the toy line did not do so well. The other problem was that Sunbow started into a decline after it's three failed movie attempts (Transformers, My Little Pony, and GI Joe for those of you at home keeping score) and closed it's ranks with Hasbros failing toy line based cartoons. The story goes that on the planet Prysmos magic and science come in cycles. During the age of science magic is surpressed and during the age of magic science is suppressed. This all comes as a shock to the modern inhabitants of Prysmos whose tech all suddenly fails. The world is flung into chaos and people have to get used to living a primitive way of life. Man starts donning armour and using swords to protect themselves and evil men start to take advantage of the planets situation. It is at this time the wizard Merklynn approaches the worlds warriors to give them a chance to gain the powers of magic. From this contest the evil Darkling Lords are founded, but on the side of light comes the Knights of the Magical Light or the Spectral Knights. The show is just about their adventures of good vs evil and trying to live in a world filled with magic. It is pretty cool all the way around and I think would have a better chance as a cool series reboot then it did back in the day. I can dare say even see live action big screen goodness here too. If you have not yet checked out Visionaries then go sally forth young one and do so. 

     And now without further ado is my final lost cartoon of coolness... drum roll if you please, the Galaxy Rangers. This cowboy space odyssey was created by Gaylord Entertainment Group and ran for three season from 1986-1989. The final season of this show is OK, but the first two are really great. Again we have a show in the future (just not the far flung future but rather round the corner few years from now future). Earth is visited by aliens seeking our help to defend the universe from the Queen of the crown and her empire bent on ruling the universe. In return they give us hyperdrive technology and other technologies to help aide us in that plight. This show has a cool western, space, action feel too it. I did not watch this show as a kid and did not discover it until a few years ago. I found it by accident online and was instantly hooked. The characters are well developed, although some of the story is not. It does make up for that in its ability to weave the tale it is telling that day and the great interaction between the cast. It is more on the kid side of things as it is a kids show. With some of that modern tweaking this could be another great show that the kiddies will be talking about. At the very least here is another big screen movie opportunity as well. As I think this would transition well to that medium. So there you have it folks 4 unsung shows that seriously need some love. I have a couple of honorable mentions I would like to throw in that I think should be brought back to life, but I do not have the time to write them all up. Robotix, Bravestarr, Pirates of Darkwater, and Blackstar all of these shows could be rejuvenated for the modern era and I think could be made to live again (It's alive, It's alive!!!). There are many more I am sure, but alas are not coming to me.

     Well that is it this week Shadow fans. Tune in next week where you will see cartoon execs juggle bananas all while evading poo. It will truly be fun times. By the way have you noticed how music for cartoons has changed as well. In the past a lot of shows had music that you could play in you car and rock out to and now the themes are just lame and sad, oh how sad. Any who so tell me what you think Shadow fans. Are there any old shows that you would love to see get the reboot/rebirth it needs. Do you disagree with my choices. Am I making good life choices? Am I just going crazy and who took the cookie from the cookie jar? I said we don't share. I don't want it back though you can keep it... blah! So till next time folks I will see you from the shadows. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

We have a redo with the mix master blaster... word!

     Hello folks and welcome to another installment of the Shadow Knows and tonight we have a really big show for you, really big. So let's give it up and have a warm welcome for what the Shadow knows today kiddies. So what does the Shadow know today true believers? Well what I know this day is quite shocking and most riveting. I was looking at the product label on a Razor Scooter and discovered this gold nugget of information. Apparently, are you ready for this? Apparently, this product moves when used! Say what? No way! Well I am glad to be able to pass this on to you all. If you use a Razor Scooter it will move. So be careful out there all you Shadow fans and beware the movement of the scooters muwahahaha. So any who, on to and how I geeked. I have no notes as of yet for the show with Greg and the gang. So folks it will be as much a surprise to me as it is to you all. So come check us out for fun and surprises. Maybe you might even hear scooters actually moving. It will be truly suspenseful and awe inspiring. Be there or be square.

     So on to the topic at hand my fine shadowy friends. Today I wish to discuss the topic of movie remakes/reboots. Since the creation of movies there have been those who dare to remake them. One of the first I recall seeing in my youth was The Omega Man with Charlton Heston and was based on the Book I am Legend by Richard Matheson. The first adaptation of this book was Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price and was remade again later with Will Smith In I am Legend. I have not seen Omega Man in years. I do remember that I loved this movie even though it was so different from my cherished Vincent Price rendition. I also liked the later Will Smith version, just not as much. For those who don't know the story is about a disease that ravages the Earth. Vincent Price, Charlton Heston, and Will Smith star as scientists who are immune to this plague. The plague itself turns humans animistic and allergic to the sun. In the end it is their blood that is the ultimate cure. The story itself deals with their living in a world all alone and trying to survive while searching for a cure. If you have not seen any of them I say give em a watch and find the Legend. Now this is just one example where a remake goes right, but there are many, many cases where it just goes horribly, horribly wrong (oh look I channeled Commandant Lasarde again... excellent). One that immediately springs into mind and with little effort is the Rob Zombie interpretation of the first two Halloween movies. These do not hold a candle to the originals. I applaud your efforts sir, but I assure you it was to no avail on Mr. Zombies part. Now I know some of you may have liked these movies and well that is your geek, but surely not mine. Another case in point was the 1998 release of Godzilla, The only great thing about that movie was that it ended. I remember thinking after I watched it how do I get that time back and the answer is NEVER!!! It was simply plain old horrible. It set the bar pretty low for the next one released this year. I have to say even though the story was a bit disjointed and I expected more from Bryan Cranston it was rather good and I dare say I liked it. I will give no spoilers since I am sure it is still playing somewhere. I will say go, sally forth, and see it. There are many more that spring to mind, but I will discuss here only 3 of the more recent releases that affect me. As a side note I wish to mention that I have no problems with a reboot as a whole and there are many great examples of great ones. The thing is when they go wrong it is often horribly wrong and nobody likes that. Now on to my regularly scheduled programming.

     I will start with the most recent of these and work my way back. For the most recent of these we look no further then Robocop. This movie is about policeman/family man Alex Murphy (played by the awesome Peter Weller) who is murdered by thugs in the line of duty (hehe I said duty for you dirty minded individuals). Because the city's law enforcement has been privatized, OCP the company that had the contract to uphold law in the city (Detroit, MI BTW) took Murphy's body and restored him to life as a cyborg (stating he was property, how nice). As Robocop, Murphy and his partner Anne Lewis (played by Nancy Allen) clean up crime and corruption in the city. This movie had 2 sequels, that did not get better as they went forward and I was glad when they ended. It also had a a TV series spin off (which I loved), a couple of cartoon spin offs, a TV miniseries, and a few comic titles. The stylization of this movie definitely hearkens to the 80's which spawned it. This is a really great flick that I could watch again and again. Now early this year a reboot was introduced to the world and I had only just recently had opportunity to watch it. Of this movie I must say this is another case of WTF the original is way better. Don't get me wrong. I love the effects, but the story telling was not there. Even the iconic line of the film "Dead or alive you're coming with me." felt forced and just thrown in. Michael Keaton is a wonderful actor, but his villain was not really developed well. You get no real sense of his character and he feels like a cardboard cut out. In the original his family believes he is dead, but in this version his wife makes all the decisions on what becomes of him. Now this part I did not mind, but again they did not follow it through with any real story telling with his family. His family was there and then they weren't and then they were. I dunno maybe I am just nuts. This is most likely the case. So I say look for yourselves and tell me if I am or am not. The choice is yours. The movie dynamics just don't work so much for me in this remake. They take away his whole good Irish cop and family man persona. They take it and stick it in the sewers with the rats and gators. That is just no place for such things. It is very stinky and scary down there. Have we degenerated so much as a society that these things no longer have value in film... blah I say.

     Next up for your really big funtertainment is Total Recall. In this 1990 film Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Douglas Quaid an Earthbound construction worker that dreams of going to the Mars colony. He decides since he can't afford to go. He will just go to ReKall where they will implant the memories of fun times there for him. As he gets underway for the procedure the doctors discover he has a memory cap and has been there already. They of course throw him out and erase his memories of being there. But this Shadow fans is where the joy ride begins as he finds out Sharon Stone is not really his wife, but rather his handler sent to watch him. He escapes her with his life, gets a message from himself and travels to Mars colony and has fun times with hookers and mutants. This movie finally ends with alien technology and an atmosphere on Mars. Over all I think for the time this is a fun movie and follows the original Phillip K Dick story (We can Remember it for you Wholesale) pretty well. Yes that is right folks. The same guy who gave us Bladerunner gave us Total Recall. Now in 2012, while apocalypse loomed over the world we got a reboot of this movie. It starred Colin Farrell in the role of Douglas Quaid and the very hot Kate Beckinsale as his handler/wife, with Jessica Biel and Bryan Cranston thrown in there for good measure. Now this Shadow fans is a wholesale reworking of the story down to even Phillip K Dicks version. I have to tell you though I loved it. There was no Mars and the world was polluted by war. The story takes place in the UK and Australia. Both being the only two inhabitable places on the planet. It kinda had a Judge Dredd feel in a way. Overall this movie was faced paced and told a really good story. Where the first movie was just a fun story to watch. This adaptation was not only fun, but was also creative and well done. What else can I say? Nuff said, so if you have not seen it go, run as fast as you can to your local netflix (hehe). 

     Finally we have the 1995 Sly Stallone release of comic book turned movie Judge Dredd. In this move Stallone plays Dredd an enforcer of the law. In the far flung future the world is in chaos. Because of this the governments decided to take justice out of the hands of the blind lady and put it into the hands of the individual... the judge. The judges were judge, jury, and executioner. They helped to return some sense of peace and order to our cursed Earth. As the story goes Dredd is framed for murder by his clone brother Rico. Rico (played by the awesome Armand Assante) is an ex judge who was basically a psychopath. It turns out there is a greater conspiracy within the Judge hierarchy and it is up to Dredd to bring things to light. Playing the role of comic relief is Herman Ferguson (played by Rob Schneider) who is forced to help Dredd along the way. Over all I find this to be another fun movie of the time. A lot of Judge Dredd fans hated this movie and rightly so. Since it did not do a good job of following the iconic features of the comic. I on the other hand, having not ever read the comic have no such prejudices. I loved the movie and have no real complaints. Now in 2012, while the world faced impending doom (fortunately we had the Super Friends to save us) we get a pretty sweet Dredd reboot. In this reboot Dredd is played by Karl Urban and is tasked with evaluating recruit Judge Cassandra Anderson (played by Olivia Thrilby). Anderson has psychic gifts, but has failed her judge aptitude tests. The powers that be feel she would make a great judge, but really they want her powers on the street. The chief justice decides to give this job to her toughest judge... Dredd. During the evaluation the two judges find themselves in the middle of a turf war headed by Madeline (Ma Ma) Madrigal (played by Lena Headley. This movie feels like Judge Dredd meets Dirty Harry and I think that is freaking sweet. For me this movie was all thumbs up. I loved the action, the effects, the sweet hardware, and the story wasn't half bad either. You have everything from crooked judges to the super drug slowmo to sweet minigun blazing shootouts. I loved this movie. So what are you waiting for? Go, go watch it.

     Well kiddies that is all the time we have this week for your old pal Shadow. Just remember reboots are a dangerous thing and if done correctly can give us a new wonderful approach to tell the story. Now if it is done incorrectly well we will just have to reboot the creator of the film right in the rear end. We have a nice bullseye right where the good lord split them. Any who I digress. What do you think Shadow fans? Are all reboots bad, real bad? I don't think so, but there are those who believe that all that is done before is cannon and therefore untouchable and I can respect that. Can you name some of your favorite reboots I haven't mentioned or even some of the worst stinkers? Do they all really float down here and if so do you really want to float with a deranged clown? Really inquiring minds want to know. So later gators and I will see you next time in the shadows.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Go west young man, no really, it will be the trip of a lifetime.

     Hello one and all and welcome to another exciting episode of the Shadow knows. What does the Shadow know today kiddies? Well today the Shadow says beware of smoking. Smoking can be very bad for your health. As a matter of fact if you see that you are smoking, then smoking heavily, and that is followed by a sensation of heat that means you're on FIRE! Stop, drop, and roll, stop, drop, and roll! You see I saved you from another painful moment... whew. So on to How I Geek with Greg and the Scooby gang. This week there will some talk of busting ghosts and gremlins, plus a general geek discussion of general geekitude. It ought to be a hoot and a holler ye haw. Now y'all come on down now ya hear.

     Now on to the meat of the discussion kiddies. Today's topic of deep interest is a bit of a lamentation. I lament the passing of a great movie genre... the western. This seems to be a dying art in the film industry and whats more no one seems to care. Westerns have been around since the silent age of movies. During those days of the turn of the last century the old west was still fresh in peoples minds. Guys like Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp were writing their life stories and helping the infant film industry make movies. Civil War veterans were also still roaming the streets Singing Yankee Doodle or whistling Dixie and telling their stories. To the people of the time the old west represented a time of exploration and excitement. It was after all the new frontier for us and we do love the thrill and excitement that comes with it. Now the western continued strong for several decades and could be found from silent/talkie movies, into the era of radio, and finally into our TV sets. Somewhere in the 1950's UFO sightings created fiction, which pushed the sci-fi genre forward. Still with this ever growing genre of entertainment the western managed to hold it's own until July 20th, 1969. This was the day Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon and the world changed forever. For the first time the nation began to look to the stars for something beyond our own little globe in a big way. This event help to seal the fate of the western. From that point on interest began to wain until now we have practically nothing new by major studios in the way of the west. I love sci-fi and I can see why this happened. The time of the old west is 100+ years past us and the new frontier is now space. We look to the heavens for those endless possibilities and there is nothing wrong with that. I would just love to see a resurgence of fresh life into the western movie genre. There have been attempts to to do this and even a blending of sci-fi with the Western theme, but to no avail. With Firefly on TV and  even the movie Cowboys and Aliens it seems like the audiences are shying away.. I do have to say I loved Cowboys and Aliens. Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford rocked out that movie and who doesn't at least love Firefly? So if you haven't seen them, see them. It is my  hope if you love both genres like me you won't be disappointed and if you are whelp I blow a big raspberry at you cuz I love em both. Now I will discuss some of my personal favorite stars of the genre and some of the movies they've made.

     First up on the list is the Duke himself, John Wayne. The man is arguably the greatest western (and movie) icon of all time. To me one of the things that made him so great was his rugged handsomeness. What I mean by this is he was a leading man but didn't have the body of a Greek statue. His was a stocky built man and had a little meat on him, but still he was a leading actor, who got the girl. For guys like me he made you feel better about yourself. So any who number one movie on my mind is actually two movies Rio Bravo (co starring Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson) and El Dorado (co starring James Caan, and Robert Mitchum). The reason they are together is because they are so very much alike. Director Howard Hawks worked on both pictures. El Dorado in it's first drafts did not look as much like Rio Bravo as it did in the final ones. In the end though both stories are different enough to make them both very watchable. Next is the Searchers (by John Ford). In this movie John Wayne is a Confederate soldier returning home only to have his family murdered and his niece kidnapped by Indians. It is a great story with an excellent ending. Next up we have the movie McLintock. This is a movie full of brilliant one liners and is a movie where we really get to see the Duke shine. One of my all time favorite Duke lines is in the movie "I know, I know. I'm gonna use good judgement. I haven't lost my temper in forty years, but pilgrim you caused a lot of trouble this morning, might have got somebody killed... and somebody outta belt you in the mouth. But I won't, I won't. The *hell* I won't!" If you have not seen this movie, well what are you waiting for... go, go and see it. Finally I think I will mention the Sons of Katie Elder. In this story the Duke comes home for his mother's funeral only to discover a even deeper plot. It Co Stars Dean Martin as one of his 3 brothers. This story is great, from the beginning to the end and it is well worth a watch. John Wayne made many, many great Westerns. Hey I was channeling Commandant Lesarde, sweet. If you love westerns and not seen any John Wayne movies you could be hiding under rocks and if you are come out into the sun we have cookies here. I have given you some good places to start.

     Next up we have the awesomely sweet Clint Eastwood. He is one of the few western stars still around today and the man never really disappoints in a movie (well rarely ever, I am sure there are a couple, but really I can't think of any). Clint got his big break and western start as Rowdy Yates in the series Rawhide. After his run on Rawhide Eastwood was picked up by the late great Sergio Leone alongside Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef. This would propel his career into the stratosphere. Now Eastwood did not make anywhere near as many westerns, let alone movies as the Duke (hell nobody has) but what he did make was cinematic gold. First up is the man with no name trilogy. This is actually a misnomer because he had names in all three movies (Joe, Manco (meaning one arm in Spanish), and Blondie). These 3 movies all follow one thread, making cash and lots of it. The stories and cinematics are great and very well done. So go down to your local netflix and watch em. Next up is Hang em High. This is a movie about a man hanged for a crime he did not commit (stealing cattle). After surviving he then turns lawman to hunt down the mangy dowgs that did him wrong. I gotta tell you I love this movie, but it has an open ended ending with no final resolution. Still I say watch young Shadow enthusiasts it will be a swell time. The final movie I want to mention is Two Mules for Sister Sara. This is really one of my all time favs. Shirley McClaine co stars in this movie about a mercenary (Eastwood) who is on his way to help the Mexicans in their revolution. Along the way he meets up with Sara whom he thinks is a nun, but in reality a prostitute. This movie is a roller coaster joyride to watch. So saddle up and go watch it cowboy/girl. I'd say cow-person but that may just come off as rude and offensive. 

     Next up true believers is the late great James Stewart. This is another powerhouse of Hollywood who made his star climb high. Here again is another ruggedly handsome man of Hollywood. Though not the same kinda stature as the Duke, but still in the same thread. Stewart went on to make many westerns, but it is the the ones that he made with Anthony Mann and John Ford that always seem to stand out the most. The first of these I wish to offer up is his third parring with Mann co starring scream queen herself Janet Leigh, the Naked Spur. In this movie Stewart plays a bounty hunter in search of a mad dog killer (played by Robert Ryan) to bring him to justice. Along the way he is forced to the accept the help of 2 others to catch his man and bring him to justice. Again this is a masterfully done movie by Mann with all the bells and whistles. Up next we have WInchester 73 co starring Shelley Winters and Stephen McNally, with Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, and James Best. As the story goes Stewart plays a Sharp shooter who is in a shooting tournament with a steely eyed outlaw (played by McNally). Stewart wins the show and his prize is a Winchester model 1873. The villain steals this rifle from Stewart and the movie is him and his partner tracking McNally and his rifle down. Again this is another great movie with lots of close calls and a great ending. Go see it folks it is good times I tell you, good times. Finally, I will present for your entertainment the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. This movie pairs John Wayne with Jimmy Stewart, with Lee Marvin (as Liberty Valance), Lee Van Cleef, and John Carradine to name but a few great names in this picture. If you are looking for fast paced shoot em up excitement, then this is not the movie for you. What this movie does have going for it is how well it is written, directed and then presented to you the viewer. It starts out with Jimmy Stewart telling a reporter the story as to how he became who is is today. Basically he takes credit for a lie in which the townsfolk believe he shot and killed town bully Liberty Valance. When in fact it was John Wayne who did the deed from the shadows (he, he my domain). In the end the reporter tears up the story and refuses to write it stating "When the lie becomes legend, you print the legend". What can I say if you like dramas look no further then here. Sure I like a good shoot em up, but you gotta wind down to earth from time to time with a good story. That is what the Man who Shot Liberty Valance is a very good story with an outstanding cast.

     Next up I will talk about the comedic western. There have been many of these put up on the big screen over the years but I have to say that my first worthy mention will be Blazing Saddles. This movie stars Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder. This is a satyr piece and is hysterical from open to close. Mel Brooks and his fellow writers on this project (Richard Pryor to name one) did an excellent job with this movie and for the love of the west you should watch it. Next up we have The two Apple Dumpling gang movies starring Don Knotts and Tim Conway. Knotts and Conway play bumbling outlaws who try time and again to no avail to be the best outlaws they can be. These are great and (insert German accent here) they need to ve vatched now! Next up is James Garners Support you local Gunfighter/Sheriff. In these movies Garner plays a bit of a con man who ends up doing the right thing. They are great and well done and I dare say well done to them sirs and madams. Finally we have Seth MacFarlane's A Million Ways to Die in the West. I went and saw this last weekend (the inspiration for this weeks blog) and I loved it. This movie was brilliant, with it's humor and Easter Eggs. See it, you just gotta, it is funny beyond words. The cast is great and well put together... Seth I salute you sir! I will give no spoilers here, so just go, run, see it now before it is gone. Of course I guess then it will be on pay per view and then DVD/blueray, but still the theatre is always a better medium so nah nah.

     Whelp Shadow Friends I must leave you for now, but come back next week where you will hear Clint Eastwood ask Jar Jar to make his day. Any who I could talk about many other movies and there are many other great westerns, like Hannie Caulder to name one off the top of my head. I will alas stick with what I have presented to you this day or I will never stop writing. So tell me what you think Shadow Friends and true believers. Do you think westerns will ever make a comeback? Are westerns even your thing? Are they even relevant anymore? Will we ever see a return to the ruggedly handsome actor? Would that wood chuck stop chucking wood? He is giving me a headache. Well that is all folks and until next time I will see you in the shadows. Sorry for the technical difficulties but all is right as rain again.